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One year into the Ebola epidemic: a deadly, tenacious and unforgiving virus

INTERNATIONAL - One year after the first Ebola cases started to surface in Guinea, World Health Organization (WHO) is publishing this series of 14 papers that take an in-depth look at West Africa’s first epidemic of Ebola virus disease.


Introduction: This assessment looks at how West Africa’s epidemic of Ebola virus disease has evolved over the past year, giving special attention to the situation in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.



The success stories in Senegal, Nigeria, and likely Mali are also described to show what has worked best to limit onward transmission of Ebola following an imported case and bring the outbreak to a rapid end. The fact that a densely populated city like Lagos was successful in containing Ebola offers encouragement that other developing countries can do the same.


An overview of how the outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo evolved and was brought under control underscores the many differences between the outbreaks in West Africa and in equatorial Africa, where all previous outbreaks since the first two in 1976 have occurred.

Key events in the WHO response are outlined to show how initial control efforts were eventually overwhelmed by the wide geographical dispersion of transmission, the unprecedented operational complexity of the outbreaks, and the many factors that undermined the power of traditional containment measures to disrupt transmission chains. These factors are also described.

In efforts coordinated by WHO, scientists and the pharmaceutical industry have geared up to develop, test, license, and introduce the first Ebola vaccines, therapies, and point-of-care diagnostic tests. As a strong expression of solidarity with the people of West Africa, these groups are attempting to compress work that normally takes two to four years into a matter of months.

Finally, the assessment takes a look at the potential future evolution of the Ebola epidemic. Based on what has been learned during this first year, what critical strategies and interventions will give countries and their partners the best chance of bringing the outbreaks under control?



‘Wake-up call’ data shows 63 million adolescents out of school

SINT MAARTEN/INTERNATIONAL – As country Sint Maarten opened a UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) National Commission Office on Monday, January 19 in Philipsburg, whose opening was conducted by the Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Hon. Rita Bourne-Gumbs, UNESCO released a report internationally that one in five adolescents worldwide is not in school, which means that some 63 million young people between the ages of 12 and 15 are denied their right to an education, mainly because they are marginalized and poor.

A joint United Nations agency report has found as pressure mounts to include universal secondary education in the post-2015 global development agenda.

“This report serves as wake-up call to mobilize the resources needed to guarantee basic education for every child, once and for all,” said Ms. Irina Bokova, Director General at UNESCO, a co-facilitator of the findings.

Speaking at last Thursday's Education World Forum in London, Ms. Bokova advocated targeted interventions to reach the families displaced by conflict, “girls forced to stay home”, children with disabilities and the millions obliged to work.

The new joint reportFixing the Broken Promise of Education for All: Findings from the Global Initiative on Out-of-School Childrenwas produced by UNESCO and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Thedata foundthat as children get older, the risk that they will never start school or will drop out increases. One in ten children of primary school age is out of school compared to one in five adolescents. The study also found that in total, 121 million children and adolescents have either never started school or dropped out despite the international community’s promise to achieve Education for All by 2015.

UNICEF's Executive Director, Anthony Lake, participating at the Forum, said that fixing the problem required the global commitment to invest in three areas: getting more children into primary school; helping children – especially girls – stay in school through the secondary level; and improving the quality of learning.

“There should be no debate among these priorities,” he stressed, emphasizing that “the success of every child – and the impact of our investment in education – depends on all three.

Echoing that innovative approach, UNESCO's Director-General said: “Business as usual strategies based on more teachers, more classrooms and more textbooks are not enough to reach the most disadvantaged children”.

Indeed, “business as usual” has not worked. Data show that there has been almost no progress in reducing the number of adolescents out of school since 2007. Children living in conflict, child labourers and those facing discrimination are most affected. And without major shifts in policies and resources, previous education gains may erode.

If current trends continue, 25 million children – 15 million girls and 10 million boys – are likely to never set foot inside a classroom.

The highest out-of-school rates are in Eritrea and Liberia, where 66 per cent and 59 per cent of children, respectively, do not go to primary school. In many countries, the rates of exclusion are even higher for older children, especially girls. In Pakistan, 58 per cent of adolescent girls roughly between the ages of 12 and 15 are out of school compared to 49 per cent of boys.

Poverty is the greatest barrier to education, the report found. In Nigeria, two-thirds of children in the poorest households are not in school and almost 90 per cent of them will probably never enrol. In contrast, only 5 per cent of the richest children are out of school.

For a concrete policy shift, the study calls on governments to provide robust information on marginalised children. Many of these children remain invisible within current data collection methods. Children with disabilities are amongst the least visible – reliable data simply don't exist – and they are being overlooked in national responses to out-of-school children.



ORIENT BEACH, St. Martin - Orient Beach in St. Martin/Sint Maarten ( has been nominated among 20 beaches for the title of "Best Caribbean Beach category" by USA Today's10Best Readers' Choice Awards.


Fans of the idyllic island are encouraged to vote daily for St. Maarten's Orient Beach through Feb. 2, 2015 to ensure that Orient Beach earns the top spot as the Best Caribbean Beach by visiting


"Our beaches are some of the most beautiful in the Caribbean and we take pride in the unique options each beach has to offer and we would love the honor of being named the Best Caribbean Beach by USA Today readers," said Marla Chemont, Interim Director of Marketing for the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau. "Orient Beach is a favorite among locals and visitors alike and we encourage everyone to vote," added Chemont.


Guests visiting St. Maarten will enjoyOrient Baywhich combines the beach with bistro - further solidifying St. Maarten as "the culinary capital of the Caribbean." In addition to being an official "clothing optional" beach and offering a large variety of water sports, Orient Bay's numerous restaurants offer local as well as other fine dining opportunities.


St. Maarten/St. Martin is home to 37 breath-taking beaches and boasts numerous historical and romance-oriented attractions. During the day, water sport enthusiasts can take full advantage of the island's scuba diving and snorkelling facilities, while the capital of Philipsburg offers duty-free shopping with a beautiful city atmosphere, 14 world-class, Vegas-style casinos and plentiful nightclubs provide endless entertainment.


With the widest variety of dining experiences of any other island in the Caribbean , the Dutch nation of St. Maarten and the French overseas Collectivity of St. Martin offer a wide range of cuisines served in 365 restaurants-one for every day of the year.


For more information on St. Maarten, visit the official site of the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau

St. Maarten

St. Maarten is the smallest island in the world to be shared by two nations, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and France, creating a European-influenced vibe with a Caribbean flair. As "the culinary capital of the Caribbean," St. Maarten offers an eclectic array of cuisine fusion for food lovers with more than 365 restaurants, one for each day of the year to satisfy the tastes of every palate and pocketbook.


Accommodations are varied and include elegant private villas, family oriented resorts, quaint cottages and luxury spa resorts. Air service is available to Princess Juliana International Airport from numerous U.S. and Canadian cities as well as from Europe, South America and the Caribbean.


Find St. Maarten on Facebook at on Twitter at" shape="rect"> For more information, visit" shape="rect">


Caribbean Seismic Research Unit Warns Region about the Big Earthquake that’s Coming

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – The Seismic Research Centre (SRC) of the University of the West Indies (UWI) is warning the region to “move expeditiously” towards building resilience amid predictions of the Caribbean being hit with an earthquake with a magnitude of eight or larger.

“We must develop, legislate and enforce Building Codes using up-to-date seismic hazard maps based on the latest available science. Preparedness measures at the individual levels are insufficient and greater efforts are needed to facilitate self-resilience,” the SRC said in a statement as it marked the fifth anniversary of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that ricked Haiti in 2010, killing an estimated 300,000 people.

The SRC said that the earthquake in Haiti “should have been the wakeup call for a fundamental shift in regional mechanisms for coping with seismic hazards”.

It said major earthquake disasters around the world have stimulated similar shifts and resulted in greater resilience to seismic hazards in these regions.

“This has not happened in the Caribbean and the region continues to be extremely vulnerable to seismic events,” the SRC said, adding “research suggests that the region is capable of generating an earthquake of magnitude 6.0 or larger every 3-5 years.

“Of more concerns, we are long overdue for a magnitude 8.0 earthquake, which has 32 times more energy than the Haiti event. In light of these sobering facts, it is imperative for the region to move expeditiously towards building resilience to such events,” it added.

The SRC said that while there have been advances in many areas, “the effectiveness of the implemented strategy from country to country still needs to be measured.

“The need for broad based impact assessments for seismic hazards and risks is now greater than ever with clearly established short term and long term objectives. Every year that passes without the necessary measures being in place is a year closer to a repeat of the Haiti disaster. Now is the time to be ready,” the SRC added. (CMC)


SAFE New Year’s Message 2015- Stronger together

PHILIPSBURG—The Board of St. Maarten/St. Martin Alliance For Equality (SAFE SXM) would like to extend best wishes to everyone as the community continues into the start of 2015.

The organization said that it only looked forward to more events and better things in this upcoming year. While the organization is still a very young one (launched in December 2013), a lot has been achieved in the past 12+ months. Local, regional and international partnerships have been fostered and contact has been made with a number of relevant entities on the island.

These partnerships will be further explored and cemented in the coming years and local partnerships will also be concretized. There have been social events, including meet and greets, hikes, parties, and general meetings and educational events, including discussion evenings, workshops (abroad and locally), a booth at the annual Lions Health Fair, radio interviews, a theatrical production and the inaugural International Human Rights Day Lecture; all with the aim of bringing LGBT people closer together and building a strong LGBT community here on the island. There is also the Facebook community where there is continued interaction and sharing of information.

Most importantly, awareness has been raised about LGBT people on St. Maarten/St. Martin and the need for further dialogue in order to move forward in a way that is beneficial to us and respectful of our human rights. To this end, SAFE SXM wishes to reiterate that it is open to dialogue, with any and all members of the community, as long as these conversations are carried out in a courteous manner.

Already there have been discussions with religious and political leaders, but not nearly enough. In the upcoming year, more of these discussions will be attempted in order to come to a better understanding and perhaps even cooperation. Union leaders and school boards will also be contacted in order to dialogue about how to make safe spaces for LGBT youth in order for them to learn and become their best selves.

The board acknowledges that while there were considerable successes, there were also areas where obstacles and challenges were encountered and projects that had less impact than intended. There are also areas that still need the board’s attention in order to have improvement and these will certainly be addressed in 2015. However, the board wishes to repeat that  these things can only be accomplished if all hands are on deck and LGBT people and allies are available to constructively help make our organization a safe, supportive, social and educational space and place, where people can come and hang out, and grow communally, spiritually and intellectually. This organization can only continue to grow and develop if we have consistency, honesty and support.

In 2015, a survey will be conducted in order to assess the needs and desires of the LGBT community, so that a way forward can be structured based on the reality of the situation at hand. The board hopes that all LGBT persons will assist by filling out this digital survey once it reaches them. SAFE SXM also notes a need for physical, mental/emotional and spiritual health in the LGBT community and so will have events geared specifically towards these areas, including, weekly walks, continued discussion evenings with relevant stakeholders, and outreach with willing religious counterparts.

“We remain true to our objectives which are to 1) promote the social acceptance and inclusion of LGBT people on St. Maarten/St. Martin, in order to create an island free of stigma and discrimination towards said persons, where they enjoy freedom and equality at all levels of society, 2) promote personal empowerment by encouraging the awareness of one's own (sexual) identity, and social situation in general, and where needed (and possible) support those LGBT individuals who are in need of assistance and care, 3) represent the collective interests of the LGBT people, and 4) improve awareness, promote equality, especially where they relate (but are not limited) to the LGBT community,” the board members said.

The board members for 2015 are Lysanne Charles – Arrindell; President, Nadjesca Gumbs; Treasurer and members Laurent Drouin Le May, Gerard van Osch, Nigel Lalman and Arman Hodge. The board is currently looking for a new secretary and also looking for interested persons who are willing to head the following committees; Public Relations and Marketing, Education, Social Events, Youth and Fundraising. All interested persons can email the organization at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

“There is still a lot of work to be done for our community and while the board is more than happy work to our benefit, we also need the input, energies, expertise and assistance from the wider community. We also know that there is a lot happening in and to our community and we hope that in the coming year more people start to speak out against the injustices they are experiencing or know that others are experiencing so that we can record these and offer support and assistance to said persons. We must strive to move from tolerance to acceptance and not backwards to intolerance and in order to do this we must stand strong and united. SAFE SXM is about all of us and for all of us, because in the end, we are stronger together” the board concluded. (SAFESXM)


UN, educators applaud Paramount’s ‘Selma,’ chronicling Martin Luther King’s campaign for voting equality

INTERNATIONAL – Top United Nations officials recently attended a special screening in New York of the movieSelma, about the historic struggle of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s marches from Selma to Montgomery Alabama that led to United States President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The film screening was attended by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon along with his wife, Madame Ban Soon-taek, Deputy -Secretary General Jan Eliasson, as well as the film’s director, Ava DuVernay.

Teachers, educators and students also attended the event as part of a programme that encourages public schools to teach the history of African-Americans and the African Diaspora. The event was co-organized by Paramount Pictures and the New Jersey Amistad Commission and the UN Department of Public Information (DPI), as part of itsRemember Slaveryprogramme.

Selmachronicles a string of historical events that led to the trailblazing marches, including the relationship between Dr. King and President Johnson and the struggle of ordinary citizens.

The film tells the story of the American south in the early 1960s, where black citizens applying to vote were repeatedly blocked by local registrars. By 1965, there were countries in Alabama, one of the worst cases in the south, where not a single black person had voted in any election for the previous 50 years – although African Americans were guaranteed the right to vote in 1870.

These events came to a head on 7 March, 1965, when marchers, led by civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., were assaulted by local and state troopers. Describing her process in directing the film, Ms. DuVernay said her goal was to humanize Dr. King so the audience could connect with him.

“I think if you see [Dr.] King as a man and not a myth, not a ‘mountaintop’ speech and not all of the things that we have constructed about him, and when you see him as a man it allows his greatness to be closer to us and allows us to touch that greatness and be that great.”

New Jersey 7th grader, Celeste Hopkin, toldUN Radiothat watchingSelmainspired her.

“I think [the film] was very interesting especially because in school we don’t really learn a lot about Dr. Martin Luther King…It revealed a lot of things I didn’t even know about the march. I think it was very important because it showed all of the hardships they went through and what we have overcome in the past 50 years,” she said.

“Dr. Martin Luther King had hope and that pushed him…and now in Ferguson they need that hope and that guidance to overcome what has happened and not to have it revealed in violence but in a different way,” Celeste added, referring to the city in the US state of Missouri, where in August 2014, unarmed African American teenager Michael Brown was shot by a white police officer.

TheSelmascreening was part of the UN Remember Slavery programme, which mobilizes educators to teach about the causes and consequences of the transatlantic slave trade and to communicate the dangers of racism and prejudice.

“Selma reminds us of the issues and challenges that people of African descent have faced in the recent past and continue to face long after slavery has officially ended,” said Maher Nasser, the Acting head of DPI.

The UN General Assembly has proclaimed 2015-2024 as theInternational Decade for People of African Descentciting the need to strengthen cooperation in relation to the full enjoyment of all rights by people of African descent, and their full participation in all aspects of society.

“Films can serve as powerful educational tools to teach the young generations about the dangers of racism and prejudice,” added Mr. Nasser.


Prime Minister Gumbs pushes to have Ms. Lalie’s statue repaired

PHILIPSBURG - Prime Minister (PM) the Honorable Marcel Gumbs has made sure that one of St. Maarten’s national figures and a local heroine is remembered with respect. The statue of Lalie Duzanson on the Dutch Quarter/Belvedere round about was damaged during the passing of Hurricane Gonzalo and has ever since been leaning backwards.

Prime Minister Gumbs recently got in contact with sculptor Michael Maghiro with a simple yet deliberately strong message: Ms. Lalie was good to St. Maarten and we cannot let her memory be disrespected in such a manner, even if it was an act of God.

To his credit, Maghiro took it upon himself to cover the statue with the blue tarpoline prior to the call of the Prime Minister. However, he said the PM showed genuine urgency in getting the statue repaired as soon as possible. Maghiro said he is also maintaining the other statues.

“If we immortalize our people and honor them with statues, we have to ensure that these reflect the greatness of our people at all times. These are the things I care about, the memories and contributions of our people who sacrificed personally for St. Maarten and selflessly helped others,” Prime Minister Gumbs said. (Press Secretariat Government of Sint Maarten Council of Ministers)


MLK attends opera concert

PHILIPSBURG - Some of the students of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Primary School attended a special school opera concert this morning which was hosted by the Foundation Classical Delight.

The Foundation Classical Delight is a non-profit organization established with the purpose of bringing classical music to our island. They invite annually professional, gifted and sometimes famous musicians to perform. 

Getting the students acquainted with classical music is part of children’s education and often highly appreciated by them. 

"We deeply appreciate this opportunity for our students to meet with the opera artists this morning at this special school concert and witness first-hand another musical genre," remarked School Manger Stuart Johnson of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Primary School.

The theme for the school concert was opera and piano, including four-handed piano works. Shane Schag and Chun-Wei Kung are well known for their inspiring school concerts and performed at the event held at the Belair Community Center for the various schools in attendance.

"We look forward to many more opportunities such as this one being afforded to our students as our students truly enjoyed themselves while learning to appreciate classical music," Johnson concluded. (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Primary School)


Minister Connor pays Tribute to D’Shnay

PHILIPSBURG - Minister of Tourism & Economic Affairs Claret Connor recently paid tribute to St. Maarten’s Reigning Teen Carnival Queen D’Shnay York who won the Haynes Smith Talent Teen Pageant in St. Kitts on December 30. He congratulated her on behalf of his entire Ministry.

The Minister presented D’Shnay with a congratulatory letter from his Ministry and hailed her as a true ambassador for St. Maarten. He said the competition was very close between D’Shnay and the first runner-up who hailed from St. Kitts which is evidence that the judges recognized the hard work D’shnay put into the pageant.

“Your success at the competition is a great victory for the people of St. Maarten, not because you emerged victorious, but because you were able to give your best while you proudly represented St. Maarten,” the Minister said.

“We are extremely proud of you and your team and wish you much success during your reign. May your reign be one of continued growth and success. Continue to make St. Maarten proud in all of your endeavors.” (Press Secretariat, Government of Sint Maarten Council of Ministers)

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